Thursday, June 23, 2016

What Manner of "Hen" Ought Ye To Be?

Several years ago I had this crazy idea that we should raise some chickens. I had never raised chickens before. The idea of raising chickens and collecting eggs from the hens was something I always wanted to try. I thought it would be fun and a great experience for our four young children.
Before purchasing some chicks, I needed a chicken coop. I found some "do it yourself" plans and purchased all the materials to build a small home for chickens. Rika and the kids were kind of surprised. They asked, "Dad, are really going to build a chicken coop?" Then thy added, "Do you really know how?" I assured them I could do it and then invited them to help. Before long we had a home built chicken coop. It was not the best coop ever built, but it would do just fine for the six little chicks we planned to buy.
Soon we found six cute little chicks at the farmers market. They claimed they were all hens (female), but we soon found out identifying the sex of baby chicks is not an exact science. 
The kids loved our chicks. They would take them out and play with them like new little pets. Those cute little chicks grew and after several weeks started looking more like chickens. As they matured, to our great surprise, it became apparent that two of the six chicks turned out to be roosters! You know what that means. Crowing in the morning. Needless to say we did not need an alarm clock any longer. It also meant that any eggs laid by our hens, if sat on, could hatch new baby chicks. Soon the hens were big enough to begin laying eggs. Every morning we would collect 3-4 eggs from the hens. One summer day, after a short vacation, I went to see how the chickens were doing. I had not gathered any eggs for a few days and I noticed one of the hens had gathered all the other hen's eggs under herself and was sitting on them. All of them. She had maybe 10 or more eggs under her. I left them there thinking they would not be fresh. The next morning she had done the same thing and she repeated this exercise every morning for several days. Not knowing which eggs were just laid and which ones she had been sitting on for a few days, I was compelled to leave them all under her. Now if you remember, we had two roosters. That meant that the eggs she was sitting on may be fertile and possibly hatch new chicks. I was skeptical, but curious to see what would happen. Several more days passed and this hen continued to sit on about 20 eggs. I thought there is no way these are going to hatch. There are too many and they may not even be fertile. I was tempted to throw them out, but I decided to wait a few more days. The other hens and roosters had no interest in this mother hen or her eggs (which were their eggs too). She seemed all alone, fixed on her task of hatching those eggs.

Then, one morning to my great surprise, when I opened the door to the coop, several small chicks darted across the floor. Before we knew it, we had over a dozen little chicks running around the yard.
Then I discovered something that literally changed my life. While the others hens and roosters had no interest in the eggs before, they seemed to despise and pick on these newly hatched chicks. But as they began to chase and peck at these little chicks, the hen that sat on them jumped to their defense and gathered them back under her wings. Knowing of the danger outside their mother's care, the chicks soon learned to stay close to her and when they got too far away, the mother hen would pull them back under herself where they would be safe again. In reality, not all these chicks were from her eggs, but that did not matter to her. She had sacrificed herself for them and painstakingly sat in those eggs for days. She seemed determined to protect these chicks and gather them under her wings over and over again.
As I witnessed this with my real chickens, my mind reflected on the words of Jesus Christ when he said " often I have desired to gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not." (Matthew 23:37).

The Savior loves each of us and he is gathering his children even today. Like the hen I witnessed, He sacrificed his own life, that each and every person on this earth might be saved. In modern day scripture we read, "Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your redeemer, the Great I Am whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins. Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer." (Doctrine and Covenants 29:1-2)

The gospel of Jesus Christ offers each of us peace and protection. Following the teachings of the Savoir does not guarantee we will not face trials, but it will provide us with the proper perspective and the reassurance and strength to face and overcome trails we will certainly encounter in our lives.
Watching the mother hen, gave me a renewed understanding of the role of Jesus Christ in my life. It reminded me of how He loves and cares for me. The invitation to all is to follow Him and strive to live a life patterned after His. When Christ appeared to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, he asked the question, "What manner of men ought ye to be?" Then he answers, "even as I am." He is our example. He served and sacrificed for each of us. That day in my chicken coop, I saw a little bit of the example of Christ reflected in that crazy mother hen. 
I then had a silly thought. What manner of "Hen" ought I be? The answer was clear, just like that crazy mother hen. An example of Christlike love and service. Needless to say, I am still working on this, but grateful for the reminder provided by this mother hen many years ago.

The pictures are actual pictures of our children with the chicks and our little chicken coop.

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